Mecamylamine inhibits nicotine but not capsaicin irritation on the tongue: Psychophysical evidence that nicotine and capsaicin activate separate molecular receptors

Jean Marc Dessirier, Michael O'Mahony, Jean Marc Sieffermann, Earl Carstens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

34 Scopus citations


Using a two-alternative forced-choice (2-AFC) discrimination test coupled with category intensity ratings, we investigated the effect of mecamylamine, an antagonist of neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAchRs), on oral irritation elicited by nicotine or capsaicin. Mecamylamine (0.075%) was first delivered to one side of the tongue with distilled H2O delivered to the other side. After 10 min either capsaicin (1 ppm) or nicotine (0.12%) was applied bilaterally to the tongue, and subjects were asked to choose which side yielded a stronger sensation (2-AFC) as well as to provide a rating of the irritation intensity difference between the two sides of the tongue. When nicotine was given after mecamylamine, a significant proportion of subjects chose the mecamylamine-untreated side as yielding stronger irritation. When capsaicin was given after mecamylamine, both sides of the tongue were chosen in equal numbers. These data indicate that mecamylamine reduced irritation elicited by nicotine but not capsaicin, and provide further evidence that nicotine oral irritation is mediated via a neuronal nAchR while capsaicin activates trigeminal fibers via a separate molecular receptor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-68
Number of pages4
JournalNeuroscience Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 9 1998



  • Capsaicin
  • Irritation
  • Mecamylamine
  • Nicotine
  • Nociception
  • Trigeminal
  • Two- alternative forced-choice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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